Liam Neeson diversion doesn’t set any new precedents, but if you like this kind of genre movie then it entertains you for the whole ride. Non-Stop is more of a mystery guessing game than it is an “action” thriller with Neeson as Bill Marks, a United States Air Marshal with a checkered past (alcoholism, disgraced former policeman), out to protect 150 airline passengers from an anonymous terrorist who wants to extort money. Every twenty minutes he promises to kill somebody on-board, which indeed is fulfilled. The promotional ads have done a good job in misdirection – they haven’t given away the perpetrator behind it.
I liked the lean storytelling. “Non-Stop” introduces a premise and sticks with the situation on the plane. It doesn’t cutaway to mission control, or the White House, or to media pundits. It proves that it is much more effective to maintain the tautness in a constricted space rather than allow a screenplay to jump around. The situation does escalate to the point where the passengers become frightened to watch their television monitor from their seat and learn of their own dire situation, with incorrect information that the air marshal is untrustworthy. Neeson, in that burly “Taken” way of his, badgers the passengers into submission to keep compliance on-board.
The movie is fairly gutsy with disputes of racial profiling, with subjugating irate passengers that deserve the castigating they receive. The movie is a little dimwitted when Neeson searches every passenger with the active cell phone sending threats without searching the lavatory or cargo pit. But still, it’s been awhile since there’s been an airborne thriller (even as mild a thriller as this one), and I’ve waited quite awhile for one that’s better than the harebrained “Flightplan.”
Ask me in six months if I liked this movie, and I’ll shrug a response such as I liked it enough at the time. It’s no big deal of a movie. But it’s steadily shot with a limit on queasy-cam shots, the story has a forward progression, it has momentary tension, it has some what-if’s that make me wonder how real United States Marshals would assess the validity of this movie. And last, it has Neeson unpretentiously doing what he does best – knocking sense into peoples’ heads.
With Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o, Scott McNairy, Nate Parker and Linus Roache.
110 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SUSPENSE-THRILLER / MYSTERY FANS / FRIDAY NIGHT EXCITEMENT
Film Cousins: “Passenger 57” (1992); “Executive Decision” (1996); “Turbulence” (1997); “Flightplan” (2005).